MSNBC commentator Chris Mathews became livid over Tea Party Queen Michele Bachmann’s mangling of history, asserting America’s founding fathers “worked tirelessly” to eliminate slavery. This, and the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives’ insistence on omitting Article 1 Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution from their politically-staged reading—complete with a thumping of Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. when he objected to the omission of that passage, which obliquely defines blacks as three-fifths of a person, from the record—seems to form a groundswell of conservative revisionism intended to deliberately whitewash this nation’s shameful record on human and civil rights.
According to the 1860 U.S. census, 393,975 individuals,
representing 8 percent of all US families, owned 3,950,528
slaves. Nearly 4 million slaves with a market value of close to
$4 billion lived in the U.S. just before the Civil War. Masters
enjoyed rates of return on slaves comparable to those on other
assets; cotton consumers, insurance companies, and industrial
enterprises benefited from slavery as well. [Jenny B. Wahl of
Carleton College] Writing for then majority in the 1857 Supreme
Court case Dred Scott v. Sandford, Chief Justice Roger B.
Taney's wrote slaves were "so far inferior that they had no
rights which the white man was bound to respect." Slavery was a
multi-billion-dollar business in the mid 1800's. Slave traders
and slave owners were lobbying hard to expand slavery into newly
acquired U.S. territories. Washington Republicans fought to
limit slavery to the mostly southern states where it already
existed, and slavery abolitionists were gaining increasing
support, which threatened the economic boom of the South, whose
prosperity relied almost exclusively on the free labor of
enslaved people. Southern concerns included not only economic
loss but also fears of racial equality. The Texas Declaration of
Causes for Secession said that the non-slave-holding states were
"proclaiming the debasing doctrine of equality of all men,
irrespective of race or color", and that the African race "were
rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race."
South Carolina planter and state Senator John Townsend said
that, "our enemies are about to take possession of the
Government, that they intend to rule us according to the
caprices of their fanatical theories..." rhetoric which sounds a
lot like that of today's Tea Party.
During the Civil War, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln reluctantly issued an executive order under the War Powers Act freeing all slaves in the Confederate States of America unless they returned to the Union on or before January 1 1863. Lincoln issued the Proclamation under his authority as "Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy" under Article II, section 2 of the United States Constitution. As such, he had the martial power to suspend civil law in those states which were in rebellion. He did not have Commander-in-Chief authority over the four slave-holding states that had not seceded: Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland and Delaware. The Emancipation Proclamation was never challenged in court. Lincoln had favored a more gradual end to slavery, concerned about the economic and social problems an immediate end might cause. But as the war dragged on it became obvious that Southern slaves were assisting the Confederate army either by working their lands or supplying the troops. The Emancipation Proclamations was more about disrupting enemy supply lines and creating confusion than it was abut showing mercy to millions of human beings held in captivity.
According to historian Chandra Manning, both Union and Confederate soldiers who did the actual fighting believed slavery to be the war's cause. A majority of Confederate soldiers fought to protect slavery, which they viewed as an integral part of southern economy, culture, and manhood. Union soldiers believed the primary reason for the war was to bring emancipation to the slaves. However, many Union soldiers did not fully endorse the idea of shedding their own blood for African American slaves, whom they viewed as inferior. Manning's research involved reading military camp newspapers and personal correspondence between soldiers and families during the Civil War. Manning stated that the primary debate in Confederate states over secession was not over state rights, but rather "the power of the federal government to affect the institution of slavery, specifically limiting it in newly added territories."
More than 600,000 men lost their lives in the Civil War. More than twelve million people were kidnapped from sovereign African soil, brought across the Atlantic and sold throughout North America. Families were split up, men brutalized, women and girls raped as a matter of routine. Neither slaves nor their descendants born n American soil were legally American citizens and therefore had no legal recourse or civil rights.
Many of these facts have faded from American memory,
mostly obscure historical lessons. So much so that a new and
disturbing trend, which is an obvious political strategy, is
emerging: a deliberate, calculated effort to whitewash history.
This is important because the Republican Party has been brazen
in their efforts to use U.S. President Barack Obama's race to
rally bigoted white America to vote him out of office in 2012.
The Republicans seem to be betting the farm that there are
enough bigots in America to accomplish this, and that these
bigots will show up at the polls.
This is why the Republicans keep bringing up the issue of slavery. Seemingly out of nowhere, they just start talking abut slavery. Why? because it's in their talking points. Talking about slavery is part of their political strategy. Using Obama's race against him is a terribly dicey enterprise. Assuaging White Guilt over the evil blot on this Nation's legacy is an important counterweight. They have to call the president the N-Word but they can't get caught doing it or be blamed for it. So they have to run around soft-pedaling the nation's racist history so their people feel less inhibited about giving sway to their institutionalized predisposition to doubt, distrust and even hate this president. They have to lend the impression, and make it stick, that slavery wasn't so bad. At least, under slavery, blacks had both a mother and a father in the family unit--an absolutely ridiculous claim. Who believes such nonsense? America does. because America wants to believe it. because America needs to believe it, needs to believe racism is a thing of the past. Even as so many white Americans doubt, distrust and even hate this president, without being able to explain, succinctly, why. All they can do is parrot GOP talking points. but this is personal. These people hate the president, despise him personally.
And, so, in millions of white households, across America, supper time conversation turns to repeating what the Republicans and Tea Partiers are repeating every chance they get: slavery wasn't so bad. We don't hate Obama because he's black. Then why is the GOP talking about slavery every chance they get?
By using a semi racist voice with semi racist tones falling just a hair short of being overtly racist, conservatives have forged this genius safe zone where they are in a perpetual crouch, underdogs, indignant at having been falsely accused. “You’re calling me a racist? Me? How dare you! I’m just criticizing the president’s policies! I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t!” The brilliance and power of this approach is it unites white people in a common experience of reflexive anger at having been so accused—even if no one is actually accusing them. But they behave like a suspect class, now venting anger and hostility not only toward the president but the president’s supporters if not blacks in general. Many conservative political tactics have been clearly and objectively racist. They know it. But rather than call conservative leaders and candidates to account, the first instinct is cowardice: to embrace the lie that the conservative fringe is not advocating racism or that mainstream Republicans aren’t turning a blind eye and deaf ear to this heinous practice.
The legacy of this current group of Republicans, both in Congress and on the campaign trail, is a shameful one of overt racism and deliberate attempts to undo the social progress of the past 30 years. This is a despicable political ploy, made all the more so by conservative white America’s seeming indifference to these shameful tactics. There seems not one voice among conservative whites willing to call these people on this perpetuated evil. Blacks can holler and protest and demand resignations and so forth, but we aren’t the ones America needs to hear from. As with the Civil Rights movement, America needs to hear a conservative white male stand up for what’s right. By failing to do so, I have no alternative but to conclude that, by your silence, you agree with this shameful nonsense and therefore All Republicans Are Racist and Evil.
You can add stupid to that list: conservative ignorance plays well in the primaries but the bill will come due in the general election, where millions of moderates and independents, repulsed by the neo-fascism of the primary season, will be at best lukewarm to the eventual nominee. Many will not want to be directly supportive of him. This “Rile Up The Hillbillies” tactic, right out of the KKK playbook, is an unfathomably stupid and terribly shortsighted ploy. In their zeal to unseat the president, the Republicans come across as not caring how much long-term damage they do to this nation.
There is a generation of black children, across America, who are seeing with their own eyes the resurgence and escalation of racism in this country for political purposes. Racism is hate, pure and simple. Those who practice it hate this country and the principles upon which it was founded. I can’t imagine the level of obscene ignorance one must posses to actively support people who are provably anti-America. CONTINUED